Party Planning
Custom dessert tables are a growing trend for Magnolia Bakery in New York City.

People’s lives are filled with reasons to celebrate: births, birthdays, weddings, corporate gatherings, galas, retirements . . . the list goes on. The common thread through all of these celebrations? Food!

“Baked goods are a great way to personalize events with your favorite desserts, cake and cupcake flavors, and customized dessert options,” said Sara Gramling, vice president of public relations for New York City’s Magnolia Bakery. “We find that customers incorporate them in a number of ways, including party favors, custom dessert tables, or as part of promotional activities.”

Event types

There are numerous ways to inject your bakery into the lucrative events market. One way is to invite customers into your bakery space. At various locations of Carlo’s Bake Shop in New York and New Jersey, for example, customers can attend cake decorating, pizza making, and pasta making classes in dedicated spaces at the bakeries.

Similar options are provided at Magnolia Bakery.

“We offer private cake and cupcake icing classes where you can learn some of Magnolia Bakery’s icing techniques, including our signature swirl, flower cupcakes, and special cake decorations,” Gramling said. “These icing classes can be hosted at our bakeries or at your special event. They make for a wonderful activity for kids and adults alike and are great for a wide variety of special events: birthdays, bachelorette parties, corporate team building events, and more!”

Magnolia Bakery’s children’s birthday package also lets kids decorate chefs’ hats and make and decorate their own cupcakes.

Another way to involve your bakery in special events is to offer off-site catering services.

“We offer catering services for all events,” said Stefanie Haviv, social media and marketing manager of Amelie’s French Bakery & Café in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We specialize in breakfast and coffee packages as well as dessert bars. We also participate in many non-profit events by donating desserts and services.”

Event trends

Items decorated specifically for certain special events through the use of colors, designs, and themes will always be popular, while other trends come and go.

“Right now I would say that custom dessert bars are a common trend, as well as macaron towers and traditional wedding cakes,” Haviv said.

Gramling added that “customers are frequently looking to offer a wide variety of desserts at their events, rather than one dessert or flavor. In light of that, we work with clients to offer mini versions of some of their favorite Magnolia Bakery desserts, including cupcakes, cheesecakes, banana pudding, and cookies, and choose one or two items that can be the centerpiece of their dessert table. This gives them a great opportunity to offer guests a variety of desserts and also showcase different designs, whether through cake and cupcake decorations or through the decorative elements incorporated into the table.”

Event spaces

As mentioned, a great way to inject your bakery into the special events market is to offer an in-bakery event space.

“Most of our locations have private dining spaces and banquet rooms that seat anywhere from 18-100 guests,” Haviv said.
“Rooms are complete with a menagerie of dining tables, chairs, buffet tables, and, of course, our unique je ne sais quoi décor.”

Magnolia bakery also invites its customers in for celebrations.

“We have a special event space at our Columbus Avenue bakery on the Upper West side, which is available to rent for any number of events, including birthday parties, private icing classes, and corporate events,” Gramling said. To get additional information on the event space, customers can simply send an email and a member of Magnolia Bakery’s events team will be in touch.

Event packages

The easier you can make it for customers to use your bakery for their events, the better. Washington’s Spiffy’s Restaurant and Bakery, for example, offers customized menus and first-rate service for its events, and Indiana’s The Flying Cupcake bakery advertises event packages that include cupcakes, décor, clean up, and additional items for purchase such as drinks, balloons, and other food.

At Amelie’s French Bakery & Café, “We offer full-service catering and are perfectly happy helping create what we call a ‘dessert scape’ or ‘table scape’ of café fare and sweets,” Haviv said. “We love to build beautiful scenes with our products! We also have breakfast packages at a per-person price that include beverages and everything you would need for a breakfast meeting or gathering as well as offer unique brunches and afternoon tea packages that are perfect for entertaining out-of-town guests.”

Party favors packages are another great idea. At The Cupcake Shoppe in North Carolina, fully customizable party favors are available for customers to purchase for their guests; these include cookie envelopes, cookie pops, monogram cookies, homemade granola, mini bread loaves, biscotti sleeves, rice crispy pops, cupcake gift boxes, dipped marshmallows, jam jars, cocoa jars, and s’mores kits. Several different packaging options as well as quantity discounts are available.

Event marketing

Marketing your bakery’s event capabilities is just as important as offering them. Chicago’s Blue Sky Bakery has a PDF customers can download that outlines all of its event specifics: capacity, rental fee, menu costs, guest minimums, BYOB rules, gluten free and vegetarian options, and contact information.

Social media is another good way to reach your customers regarding your special events options. Posting photos of all the events in which your bakery has contributed can show customers your experience with hosting events, display your trendy décor, and provide your clients with inspiration for their own events.

Amelie’s French Bakery & Café uses Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram and maintains a blog to reach its customers.

“We are big advocates of social media and word-of-mouth marketing,” Haviv said. “We believe giving customers impeccable service and creating loyal ‘fans’ is the best way to see growth in our events department.”

Magnolia Bakery is also very active online.

“You can find additional information about our special event offerings on as well as @magnoliabakeryweddings, our Instagram channel dedicated to showcasing our special event cakes and desserts,” Gramling said. “We also participate in a number of local events in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angles, which provides an opportunity for our events team to promote Magnolia Bakery’s event options.”

There will always be causes for celebration, and food will always be involved in those celebrations, so work to make your bakery your customers’ go-to party planning solution. Doing so will allow you to reap the benefits for years to come.